And just like that, there likely will be same-sex marriage in Florida in 15 days. Those are historic words — and a victory we should all embrace, if not celebrate.
Late Friday, the U.S. Supreme Court denied Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi’s request to Justice Clarence Thomas that he extend a stay preventing the state from recognizing the marriages of eight gay and lesbian couples.
In a a two-sentence order, Justice Thomas denied the umpteenth attempt by Ms. Bondi, and Gov. Rick Scott, to keep Florida from becoming the 36th state, plus the District of Columbia, to allow gay marriage.
The highest court has spoken, and that appears to be the final hurdle, but — and there always seems to be a “but” with this issue — legal arguments haven’t been heard before the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, which hasn’t ruled on the merits of the case.
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And the state’s 67 clerk of courts could pose another hiccup: The law firm representing their association has warned them that they could be in violation of Florida law if they begin issuing same-sex marriage licenses.
What was clear Friday night is that the Supreme Court refused to extend U.S. District Court Judge Robert L. Hinkle’s stay, which will allow same-sex marriage to be recognized in Florida on Jan. 6.
Speaking to the Miami Herald, Howard Simon, executive director of the ACLU of Florida, said: “I’m hoping this was Bondi’s last stand.” We certainly hope so, too.
There have been so many twists and turns and court hearings on this issue, from Key West to Tallahassee, that it’s hard to keep track of them all. In March, the Miami-based LGBT-rights group SAVE and eight same-sex couples who married elsewhere in the United States sued Florida to recognize their unions. They were represented by the ACLU in the suit, which was eventually consolidated with a similar federal case involving two North Florida couples.
On Aug. 21, Judge Hinkle of Tallahassee ruled in favor of the couples, throwing out the Florida Constitution’s gay-marriage ban — approved by 62 percent of voters in 2008 — calling it “an obvious pretext for discrimination.” He stayed his ruling until Jan. 5, giving Ms. Bondi time to appeal.
Ms. Bondi appealed the case to the 11th Circuit Court in Atlanta. The appeal hasn’t been heard, but on Dec. 3, three 11th Circuit judges denied Ms. Bondi’s request to extend the stay. Last week, she turned to Judge Thomas, who oversees the 11th Circuit. On Friday night, he denied her request.
So it appears that, as the year comes to an end, South Florida is witness to dramatic changes for many of its residents as two controversial topics — renewed diplomatic relations with Cuba and same-sex marriage — have been pretty much settled in its final days, turning the year into a memorable one.
It’s long overdue that Ms. Bondi end her legal battle against gay marriage. In an earlier editorial, we gave these reasons: Though maybe not in 2008, today 57 percent of Floridians do not support the gay-marriage ban. There’s no reason for Ms. Bondi to continue to pursue this case — the ban is nothing more than rank discrimination. The legal underpinnings of gay-marriage bans are rapidly being dismantled across the country.
The moral debate can continue in Florida’s churches and synagogues and mosques.
Ms. Bondi has fulfilled her duty to defend the 2008 ban, but there’s a point beyond which it becomes futile to keep fighting.
We’ve reached that point.